Recognising the social/political dimension of climate change: Climate justice and environmental justice
We have been talking about climate change for a long time. It is the biggest global challenge of the 21st century. Every living thing on earth, from humans to animals, is part of our ecosystem. There is clear evidence that human activities are changing the ecosystem.
This change is global, which means it affects the whole planet. However, its perpetrators are far from evenly distributed across the planet. The USA alone is responsible for more than 25% of global CO2 emissions on our planet. The majority is, therefore, the responsibility of the industrialised countries. The consequences of this, however, are mainly felt by the developing and newly industrialised countries in the south. This is exactly where the value creation of the industrialised countries takes place. Suppose the industrialised nations are responsible for a large part of the pollutants emitted in the past. Should they not also be responsible for eliminating the resulting damage to people and the environment? This is the question addressed by the concept of “climate justice”.
This currently prevailing climate injustice directly results from political events – mostly of rich countries. Our prosperity and wealth were and are largely achieved at the expense of foreign resources, leading to ever more growth and consumption in the industrialised countries. In poorer countries, this, in turn, leads to more dependency. Therefore, there must be an international political dimension to the climate crisis that addresses social injustice AND climate injustice. In the course of this, rich countries must acknowledge their historical guilt and take steps to make amends.
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“Every human being has a fundamental right of hospitality on earth – this is the core of human rights – and one third of the world’s population lives from direct access to nature”, Wolfgang Sachs
The first concept of environmental justice was created in the 1980s in the USA by civil rights groups and was aimed at socially disadvantaged groups. Social and economic equality are essential to environmental justice. In essence, environmental justice is also about issues such as racism and socio-economic injustice.
Unlike climate justice, environmental justice is about the interrelationships between the environment, health and the social situation of the people affected. Even in the industrialised world, the health burden of environmental problems is a serious problem. More and more people suffer from respiratory or skin diseases triggered or promoted by air pollution. In addition, factors such as social background, income and education can increase such exposure. Living conditions and lifestyle play a decisive role—for example, exposure to pollutants due to prevailing traffic conditions in urban areas.
Everyone has a right to clean drinking water, fresh air, etc. Governments should ensure that people get the right to a clean and healthy environment. A healthy environment is important for everyone and helps improve overall health.
However, these socio-economic factors also play a major role worldwide. In many parts of the world, people have no chance to escape these negative influences or are unaware of the exposure. Governments should take action to help people who are severely affected. We can solve this problem with clean air, drinking water, and a safe living environment. We need to create an environment where everyone has the same quality of life to create a healthy living environment.
Read more about environmental justice in our wiki